how To Potty Train A Stray Dog? – (Step-By-Step)

How to potty train a stray dog? You will find complete information on this topic here.

A stray dog is a dog who doesn’t have a home and lives on a street. These dogs struggle to find basic life necessities like food and only a few of them reach the adult stage because of their living condition. 

Rescue dog vs. puppy mill dog vs. stray dog:

A rescue dog has been abused in his past life either by his owner or anyone. They are neglected or abandoned by someone. 

A puppy mill dog is the one who was born and raised in a puppy mill. Puppy mills breed dogs on a large scale with the purpose of making money by selling them. But they don’t provide good living conditions either. These dogs are also abused; they live in a cage for their whole life (before being sold)

On the other hand, a stray dog is the one who lives on the streets. You don’t have any idea in what conditions he has been living in. 

No one can say If he has been abused or if he is the one who abused others. 

It is possible that he is fearful and shy but at the same time, it is also possible that he is dangerous. He might attack or bite a human too. 

So dealing with stray dogs is different from other dogs (only in the beginning) but if you will do it right, he can turn into a usual pet dog. 

stray dog sitting

Challenges of potty training a stray dog:

Adopting a stray dog is definitely a virtue. Only those people who really love dogs and have a soft heart will get them to their homes. 

So if you are one of them, we should say, great job!

Here are the challenges you will face during potty training your new dog who was a stray:

1- He doesn’t know what a house is

Obviously, a stray dog won’t know what a house looks like. When you will take him home, he might get confused. 

It is also very possible that he doesn’t even like being confined in a single place.

He used to wander around the streets so, he might not love his new big cage. This can make things challenging. 

2- He might not be shy or fearful

It is possible that your new stray dog is really shy or fearful but it can be the opposite too. It is also possible that he is aggressive (an alpha dog of a stray dogs gang?). Anything is possible. You don’t know it until you spend time with him.

So, taking care is a good option. 

3- He might not be vaccinated

It is very possible that he was born on the streets and he lived without any care. Of course, her mother won’t carry him to get him vaccinated.

So, he must be prone to medical conditions like UTIs that can hinder his process of potty training.

4- Urine marking

It’s the nature of dogs to mark their urine when they encounter a new object. When you will bring him home, he will see lots of new things. So he may start urine marking

5- Trust issues

You don’t know how humans have treated him. So he won’t trust you for longer if he is abused by human beings. And if he won’t trust you, he won’t follow you.

6- Not eager to please the owner

When he doesn’t trust you, he won’t be eager to please you. This will make the potty training process harder. 

7- Treats don’t work that way

Stray dogs have to fight for food for their whole life. So when you will give him a treat or food, he might become overly excited and completely forget what he was up to. 

Unlike other dogs, they may not associate the treat with good potty habits.

You will have to work on it too. 

8- Won’t stay on a leash

A puppy mill dog stays in a cage so training them to stay on a leash should not be so much challenging as it is with stray dogs. 

They were free from everything to move around whenever they want. Now putting them on a leash will make them fearful or anxious. 

Perks of housebreaking a stray dog?

There are not a lot of perks of housetraining stray dogs. But still, there are some!

1-They don’t pee where they sleep 

Unlike puppy mill dogs, these stray dogs get a lot of space around them. 

Following the natural instincts of the dogs, they go to pee in a different place and sleep in another place. 

When you will put them into the crate, they may not want to soil their bed. 

So crate training will also help with potty training. 

2- They don’t bother with extreme weather.

Stray dogs are pretty used to live in all kinds of weather. No matter, if it’s raining, snowing or heating, they will not bother it. 

how to potty train a stray dog

Can you potty train a stray dog?

You can potty train a stray dog.

Yes! It is possible but it will take a lot of time and commitment. You need a ton of patience and time. The more you will spend time with him, the sooner he will start understanding you and your demands.

Learning and sticking to the right process is the key. 

Are stray dogs harder to potty train?

Stray dogs can be very hard to potty train.

They are never exposed to good potty habits. They won’t trust you or follow your commands, in the beginning.

But still, you can do it by using positive reinforcement and sticking to a good schedule. 

4 Key steps to potty train a stray dog

  1. At first, you have to introduce him to basic things like food, staying on a leash, and gaining trust with a human. 
  2. The next goal is to set good potty habits while confining him outside the house/in the yard. It’s better for both of you. 
  3. Then slowly start introducing him to the inside of the house and potty train him from there. 
  4. After that, slowly introduce him to the crate and potty train him again, from there. 

How to potty train a stray dog? (step-by-step)

Here’s the step by step process of potty training a stray dog:

1- Take him to the vet and check his health

The very first thing you should do is to take him to the vet and let him know that he is a stray dog. Tell him that you are not sure if he is vaccinated or not.

The vet will guide you further according to his health condition. 

2- Confine him outside the house in a dog house / put a collar on his neck

A stray dog won’t like a sky covered with a roof. He won’t love that big cage. So it is best to confine him outdoor. 

A better option is that, get him a dog house.

Put a collar on his neck so he gets used to wearing something on the neck. It will help you while leash training. 

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3- Understand his personality (it’s crucial)

It’s a crucial part to give you a further roadmap. If he is fearful or anxious, spend more time with him and try to play. 

And if he is aggressive, let him be alone and understand that he will now get proper meals without a fight. Make him understand that humans are not to be attacked. 

Understanding his personal traits will help you deal with him accordingly. 

Also, understand that what cues he shows before relieving himself. 

4- Set his schedule and reduce his excitement for food

Set his eating and drinking schedule. Give him a good and delicious meal 3 times a day. 

Make sure to give him plenty of food and let the food tray sit there for a longer time. 

You need to make him realize that he doesn’t need to fight for food anymore. He will get plenty. So, he won’t get excited and forget everything else after a food encounter.

Timings of meals and water should be fixed. 

5- Train him to stay on a leash

Start leash training, when your dog starts trusting you or start to enjoy your company.

Put him on a long leash initially that allows him to run around. 

Throw a ball around, and let your dog pick it up for you. 

Don’t throw the ball too far. 

Play as much as you can, so he knows that the leash is not confining him in a single place. 

Slowly reduce the size of the leash. 

6- Take him to the potty spot during these times

Initially, your dog will find out his own space in your yard to relieve himself, (unless it is urine marking). That is a good thing. 

You can also fix that spot for him. 

Take him to the fixed potty spot at these times:

  • Immediately after he wakes up
  • 5-30 minutes after meals, until you know after how much time of eating, he goes. Most healthy dogs go within 30 minutes of eating. 
  • Whenever he shows his cues
  • Right before bed or nap time
  • Before leaving home
  • Every 1-4 hours, depending upon the age. Puppies need to go every 1-3 hours while older dogs need to go every 3-5 hours. 
  • When he shows the cues (we asked you to notice that above)
    • Sniffing
    • Circling
    • Barking
    • Staring at something or you
    • Scratching the door
    • Squatting
    • Restlessness
    • Going away from you while playing

7- Use potty training sprays to guide him

This step is optional; 

You can use a combination of puppy repellent and attractant spray to guide him. 

Spray the repellent spray on the areas where you don’t want him to go and spray the attractant spray where you want him to go. 

8- When he does it right, pat him and if he is not excited about food, give him a treat. 

When you take him there, stand boring when he is doing the deed and when he does, pat him and praise him in the words or gestures that he understands.

If you were successful with reducing his food excitement, you can give him the treat to create a positive association. 

9- If he pees in the wrong place, clean it up with an enzyme cleaner

However, it should not happen when your dog is outside/in the yard and he is not on a leash. 

And if he is an older dog, not a puppy. 

He will go to one corner in the yard, and after that when he will smell pee there, he will go there again. 

But in case, he does the deed in the wrong place, it is best to clean up the mess immediately with a good enzyme cleaner instead of yelling at your animal.

Do it as early as you can otherwise your new dog may fix a wrong potty spot. 

10- Slowly introduce him to the house, (after he is leash trained)

After repeating the process for a few days. Slowly start introducing him to the inside of the house. 

Right next to the door, (should not be carpeted area), set a playpen. And take your dog there, give him a treat and play with him there for a couple of hours. And take him back outside. 

This way, slowly increases his time inside. 

Beware, he may urine mark. 

When he starts to feel comfortable inside, confine him with a playpen and repeat the process from there. Like taking him to the potty spots regularly. (as we mentioned above)

Fix one door to take him to the potty spot.

11- Start regular training. 

 Now let him stay inside full time and start regular training. Like taking him to the fixed spot at regular intervals, after meal and water, right before and after bed, and whenever he shows the cues. 

Make sure to confine him using a playpen on a tiled floor. Until he starts understanding that he needs to go out to do the deed. 

Read more: Our complete guide to potty train a puppy. 

12- Slowly introduce him to the crate. 

After you know that he is almost potty trained, now is the time to crate train him. 

  • Slowly introduce him to the crate.
  • Start with a few seconds with an open door and gradually increase the time.
  • Give him his favorite toys to play with and treat him when he is inside. 
  • After a few days, start closing the door for short time and then slowly increase the time with a closed door. 

Confine him only for the time when he is not going to go potty.

stray dog standing

Some tips to successfully potty training a stray dog

  • Give plenty of food initially. Fill the tray and let the tray sit there for a long time (like half an hour). Your dog must understand that now he doesn’t have to fight for food anymore. There will be plenty for him.
  • Set realistic expectations: You have adopted a stray dog. Very good! Now keep your expectations realistic. That creature has never lived in a house. No one has told him how to behave. So, acknowledge this fact.
  • Take it to step by step: You can’t just teach your dog everything at the same time. First, train him to stay on a leash, then set good habits. After that train him to live under a roof. Then train him to stay in a crate. 

Take it step-by-step so your dog doesn’t get confused. 

  • Focus on building trust: The very important thing is trust. A stray dog really struggles while living around humans. So make sure, that your first goal is to gain his trust. 

When he will trust you, he will be more eager to please you. That will make the potty training process easier. 

  • Never yell: Yelling at dogs never works! But with stray dogs, things are even sensitive. You don’t know what kind of personality he carries. 

If you will yell, he might respond with an attack, if he is an aggressive street dog. 

How long does it take to potty train a stray dog?

Usually, it takes 4-6 months to potty train a puppy/dog but with street dogs, it will take a lot longer. He needs training after training. If you will do it right, it may take you 6-7 months to completely potty train him. But if he is an aggressive or stubborn one, it may take longer. And it also depends upon how much time you are spending with him. The more time you will spend with him, the quicker he will learn. 


How to potty train a stray dog?

“At first, confine him outside the house and introduce him to basic things like food, leash, and humans. Set good potty habits by regularly taking him to the fixed potty spot. After that slowly introduce him to the inside of the house and potty train him there. Crate training should come after that.”

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